1.15.2009

To Live and Die

Maybe it's because I just celebrated a birthday. Maybe it's because I've been sick for three weeks and counting. For whatever reason, I am ever more aware of my mortality, the indisputable fact that I will not live forever and that I will indeed some day die.

I guess that's why this line from writer and theologian Richard John Neuhaus, as quoted by New York Times columnist David Brooks, resonated with me so much: “Be assured that I neither fear to die nor refuse to live. If it is to die, all that has been is but a slight intimation of what is to be. If it is to live, there is much I hope to do in the interim.”

Those of you who know your Bibles will instantly think of a similar line by the apostle Paul: "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake." (Philippians 1:21-24)

This is the sole aim of the Christian life: to come to such a place of faith that death, however dreadful it is, is not feared as the ultimate end but rather accepted as the great transition to something unimaginably greater; and to know that whatever days we are given between now and then are to be lived for a purpose, for others, for fruitful labor. May we too be as Neuhaus and Paul: not afraid to die and not afraid to live.
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